The owner, Tran Phuong Ha, had 289 kilograms of wild animals and their meat in her restaurant's freezers, including endangered species such as bears, langurs and other primates, police charged.

Vu Dinh Cuong, head of the provincial forest warden division in Dalat, said Ha had been charged with her son, Tran Phuong Thien.

Thien is accused of raising a number of protected species at a house, including snakes and a pygmy loris.

The case began August 26 when provincial forest wardens and about 100 other officials collaborated with staff of the Wildlife Conservation Society on a sweep inspection of five restaurants in Dalat.

In total, authorities found more than 300 kilograms of frozen wild animals and several animals still alive. Tran and Thien are the only restaurant owners to be charged so far.

Cuong said forest wardens had turned investigations of the case over to regular police because it might involve complex networks of wildlife trafficking.

Consumption of wild animals in homes and restaurants is widespread in China and Vietnam, where they are considered a delicacy, despite laws granting many animals protected status. The animals are often associated with health benefits in traditional medicine.

Deutsche Presse Agentur - September 24, 2010